The comic book market is changing, says Andrea Gilroy, owner and operator of Books with Pictures, which opened in early March in downtown Eugene. It’s a sister store to a Portland comic shop of the same name.
What’s changed, Gilroy says, is inclusion. Although sales of traditional comics have slumped — think Spidey and X-Men — the overall market has grown, driven primarily by graphic novels, which are more diverse in terms of gender and sexual identity.
That diversity is what Books with Pictures is all about, she says.
“We carry all the cool stuff,” says Gilroy, who graduated from the University of Oregon in 2015 with a degree in comparative literature and a dissertation focused on comics and identity.
That includes superhero comics and more, she says. “We want to pay special attention to folks who often feel uncomfortable in more traditional geek and nerd spaces, especially women, LGBTQ folks and kids.
“I curate the stock to reflect that everyone is welcome and deserves to see themselves in stories,” Gilroy adds. “We are very intentional and explicit in this inclusive message, because enough folks have been damaged by the more toxic elements of gatekeeping. I don’t think just being passively inclusive is good enough anymore.”
Bestsellers at the store since opening reflect diversity. There are usual suspects, like Batman, but also Dana Simpson’s fantastic series Phoebe and Her Unicorn, John Lewis’ graphic novel memoir March and The Adventure Zone series.
“But our single bestselling book is Maia Kobabe’s fantastic memoir Gender Queer,” Gilroy says.
Opening any kind of business during a pandemic is challenging, but her store is a COVID success story, Gilroy says. The store pivoted quickly to online sales, with curbside pickup and delivery for local customers.
“Slowly but surely we’ve actually managed to grow,” Gilroy says. “I’m truly honored and humbled by that.”
She’s also looking forward to when Books with Pictures can safely become a supportive space for Eugene’s DIY comic and graphic novel scene.
“We absolutely want to hold drawing nights and be a place for local artists and writers to meet, work together and encourage each other,” Gilroy says.
Books with Pictures is at 99 West Broadway. Hours during the pandemic are noon to 3 pm Sunday; noon to 5 pm Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday; and noon to 7 pm Wednesday and Friday. For more information see Books with Pictures Eugene on Facebook.